Seven Years Later

18 06 2015

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Seven years. The amount of time it takes to master something. Today, Ithacating celebrates its 7th birthday. It was started in a dimly-lit bedroom on a cool, rainy evening on June 18th, 2008. I’ve made the comment before that I’ve never written the birthday entry in the same place – until this year. Most of it was written the evening of the 16th at home, with a quick check of the numbers at lunch before scheduling its publication.

So, as always, the yearly stats. Here’s the summary for the year-to-date:

stats_2015

In previous years, the blog averaged 82, 166, 199, 216, 182 and 155 hits daily. The numbers look a little more dismal than they are; the blog had a large downturn in traffic starting around February 2013, and only started to experience an uptick again in February 2014. The upswing has continued for a lot of the past year, with some months setting all-time records in late 2014 and 2015. This year, as of 11:52 AM EDT, 445,292 hits have been received, about 219 hits per day. In other words, the most traffic I’ve ever received has been in the past 12 months.

I owe a lot of that to the Ithaca Voice.

The biggest change over the past year has probably been the Voice and its relationship with the blog. The Ithaca Voice launched only three days before the 6th birthday post, so its impact was yet to be meaningfully quantified. Looking at the numbers, the Voice has referred 1,108 viewers (vice-versa, Ithacating has referred about 116 viewers to the Ithaca Voice). Some pieces on the blog are “syndicated” in the Voice, and once in a while vice-versa; but there are articles and posts that are exclusive to each, so one has to be reading both to see everything.

Partially for my own time management, I set a formal publishing schedule for the blog – a news roundup on Friday nights, and a “topic of the week” on Monday nights. This gets suspended for photo update weeks, because those are much quicker to write.

I still get occasional visitors from Ithaca Builds (281), which I miss, although I’m happy for Jason and his pursuit of an MRE at Cornell. And although I tend to share historical photos more than blog posts on Twitter, that’s contributed about 1,449 visits over the past year, making it the second largest source of visitors after search engines.

stats_2015_2

It’s still remarkable to think about the changes that have happened to this blog over the past seven years. This was originally a Cornell blog for the most part. Cornell news, Cornell facilities and Cornell history. However, I started to exhaust myself of ideas, and the Ithaca development entries, which weren’t a big focus in the first couple years, began to take up a larger proportion of the subject matter.

I cringe when I look at some of the oldest entries. The quality of writing and the over-opinioned screeds are atrocious.

Slowly working my way into different subject matter changed viewing patterns; the huge summer dip hollowed, but I stopped getting such a large spike in January when the Greek system’s rushees came back to Cornell. But I’m still very self-conscious of what I write – facts are double-checked and opinions have been muted, especially write-ups in the Voice. I jokingly refer to pieces as “blog-appropriate” and “Voice-appropriate” depending on how colloquial my writing is and how much of my opinion shows.

I spent five years writing semi-anonymously, and only this past year have I really engaged with many of the people I write about – architects, developers, politicians and officials.  There are definitely times when I feel out of my league, and to find out these people read the blog is both motivating and anxiety-inducing. I don’t consider myself especially knowledgeable about Ithaca building projects and urban planning, but I like to think that I’m good at finding information and writing about it.

My favorite entries over the past year are the ones where I can combine history and development – the 10-story building once proposed for Stewart Avenue, the Collegetown history series I did last year, and that time Cayuga Heights stopped Cornell from building dorms. There were still a few Cornell-centric pieces – a biography of Cornell’s incoming madam president, a history of Cornell’s ladder-climbing provosts, Cornell’s logo failure, and dogs at Cornell. There were also some new fast facts entries, including a couple for Ithaca College.

Looking at construction projects over the past year, a few projects were completed, or are about to be completed. The Lofts @ Six Mile Creek has gone from a foundation to near completion, Planned Parenthood wrapped up its new building, Ecovillage is ready to open their new apartment building and Stone Quarry is nearly finished. A few smaller projects, like 140 College Avenue in Collegetown, are also nearing the finish line.

A few projects were approved. Some have started, or are about to start construction – 114 Catherine, 327 Eddy, 307 College and 205 Dryden in inner Collegetown. Elsewhere, there was 707 East Seneca, the downtown Marriott and Canopy Hotels, and the Carey Building. Still others are awaiting financing, like 323 Taughannock and the Hotel Ithaca.

A few more projects were proposed – more Collegetown housing (some more likely than others), the Tompkins Financial Corporation HQ, 210 Hancock, 215-221 W. Spencer, and a Texas Roadhouse. Oh, and let’s not forget State Street Triangle, which will probably be a lightning rod of attention as it goes through the review process.

Lastly, a few projects also met their demise. 7 Ridgewood, a hotel for 339 Elmira Road, and the Cayuga Trails and Troy Road housing developments in Ithaca town. The town also recoiled from the Maguire HQ Plans, for now at least.

Over at Cornell, the Hotel School finished their new entrance and addition, the Gannett expansion started construction, Klarman Hall continued to plod towards completion, and the “Sesquicentennial Grove” was planted. Cornell announced plans to renovate Upson Hall and Rand Hall.

It’s been a busy year, and even CNN noticed. But it gives me plenty to write about in the news round-ups. I won’t issue a Friday night post if there are less than four news items, and that’s only happened a few times in the past year.

So, here I am. It’s been seven years, but I wouldn’t call myself a master of anything (except puffy cloud studies). In late April, I received a job offer in Sacramento. I was sudden, and only a couple close friends and family knew about it. Two years ago, I’d have taken it without question. A year ago, probably yes. But (after a stressful weekend of debate) I turned it down because it no longer felt like the right move at the right time, which has led to some soul-searching about what I want and don’t want. It’s not easy to articulate. I dunno where things will go moving forward. In life or in blog. But I’ll keep writing as long as I enjoy it.

 


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5 responses

18 06 2015
duc1701

Congratulations on the anniversary. I’ve loved the blog ever since I found it years ago, and I’m so happy you’re contributing to Ithaca Voice stories.

It’s no exaggeration to say you’re one of the city’s treasures (whether you live here or not). Making this information accessible to laypeople is so valuable. Thank you.

18 06 2015
Ex-Ithacan

I’ll echo dus1701’s sentiments. I’d also add that I’ve become addicted to the blog (and also the Voice). If not for your consistent info output, I would surely feel lost about my old hometown’s new found development boom which I use to wish for as a youngster. It’s great to have a childhood dream start to happen after 5 decades. Thanks for what you do Brian.

19 06 2015
K

Another great year Brain, looking forward to many more! As a student in Ithaca I have to say that this has opened my eyes to the many opportunities in Ithaca. Youth retention and attraction starts with educating people about all the exciting things happening around them!

23 06 2015
Michael Decatur

Congratulations. You do good work and I enjoy your pieces. Very informative. Thank you.

23 06 2015
Karl Madeo

I’d like to add my appreciation and admiration for what you’ve done over these seven years. As an old timer and 30 year Ithaca resident I consider this blog a great service to the community. I’m always shocked when I talk with people who don’t know about it…and I try to spread the word. And I still can’t quite figure out how you do this while residing elsewhere, but I’m certainly glad that you do. I’ve learned a lot from reading your posts…about my community, city planning, construction methods, etc. I really admire the commitment you’ve shown to this endeavor, Brian. Thank you.

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